I recently discovered a new word – ‘doomscrolling‘ – which describes the act of spending excessive amounts of screen time devoted to reading negative news, leading to heightened feelings of anxiety and depression.
It starts when someone has a genuine desire to be kept informed, and to understand what’s going on in the world. But it ends when that person keeps scrolling – obsessively, compulsively and constantly – through endless bad news stories on his/her handheld device, actively seeking out doom and gloom.
Perhaps you’re a bit of a doomscroller? If you’re not, I’m sure you’ll know others who are. Just take a look at your social media feeds, and you’ll easily be able to identify them!
Whatever it is – whether the War in Ukraine, the Covid pandemic, panicky climate change predictions, famines, earthquakes, natural disasters, racial injustice, government corruption, or any number of other things – our brains are hardwired to remember negative thoughts and feelings, which is why doomscrolling is so bad for us.
Long ago, I decided to restrict my intake of news. It was so full of pessimism, hopelessness and despair that I found it was impacting me negatively.
So I removed all the social media apps from my phone. I turned off the TV at the wall. I tuned into the radio just once a day.
At times it has felt old-fashioned, reminding me of my childhood, when the news was only available at set times in the day, and my parents would religiously sit down to watch it.
But it has been profoundly helpful for my mindset – because it means I’m filtering what fills my mind.
Instead of tuning into all the negative news, I’m able to turn my eyes towards the One who knows all about it, and has it in his hands. It means I can tune into what he wants to say – through the filter of faith, hope and optimism.
And what I’ve discovered is that where our focus lies matters.
So if we start with the war, or the pandemic, or the accident or sickness or tragedy, or whatever it is that we perceive to be blighting our lives, and if we try to reason our way back to God from there, then our faith may be shaken – or even destroyed.
Instead, we need to start at the other end. We need to start with God, and reason our way back to the circumstances, based on what we know about him.
God, who is the same yesterday, today and forever.
God, who is good, gracious, merciful, patient, kind, compassionate, caring, faithful, able, all-loving, all-knowing, all-wise, in control, present everywhere – and so much more.
When we start with what we know to be true about God, and then slowly make our way back to the things that are troubling us, it causes our perspective to shift. It doesn’t make the fear and uncertainty go away. It doesn’t answer all our questions. But it does enable us to start seeing God in the centre of all that is happening.
In the Bible, in Hebrews 12:2-3, Paul says this:
“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
Paul urges us to fix our eyes on Jesus, and the eternal and unchanging truths of what he achieved for us at the cross.
Because, when we fix our eyes on Jesus, we will not grow weary or lose heart.
When we focus afresh on Jesus, he reminds us of how much he loves us – of the cross he endured, the shame he scorned, the opposition he suffered, the sin he bore on our behalf – and he lifts us out of our weariness and revitalises our hearts.
Where does your focus lie?
Are you inclined towards doomscrolling? Are you filling your mind with endless bad news stories, and all their associated negative thoughts and feelings?
Or are you inclined towards Jesus, so that you don’t grow weary and lose heart? Are you filling your mind with what you know to be true about God?
If you’re not sure, why don’t you ask God to help you focus?
Don’t start with the circumstances and work your way back to God. Start, instead, with God and work your way back to the circumstances. You’ll really notice the difference!
As ever, all constructive thoughts and reflections are welcome in the comments below.
Also, this is March’s ‘thought for the month’, but you can read all my ‘thought for the month’ archives here.
Photo by Niek Verlaan via Pixabay